Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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there was also, in the Mohammedan states, long-estab-
lished tradition to contend with. If the wants of the
people were more elaborate than those of the southern
population, they had better means of satisfying them.
What trade there was was done either locally, between
state and state, or across the desert, by the old routes,
with the north of Africa. Tea and sugar, commonly
sold in the market of Kano, were brought with other
commodities by Arab caravans from the Mediterranean

This was also the case with many other necessities
of life. Beyond the valley of the Niger and the Benue
no administrative influence had been exercised by the
Company. Its intercourse with the Mohammedan emirs
had been confined to political missions, of which the
direct object was to obtain promises of future trade and
to exclude antagonistic foreign influence from their
territories. By these treaties prospective markets were
secured, but the condition of the country was such that
trade was not open to the north.

2 A


Under the division which was made of the Company's
territories on the surrender of the charter, the principal
centres of its commercial and administrative activity
passed, with the river valley south of Ida, to Southern
Nigeria. In Northern Nigeria its occupation was repre-
sented only by the outposts which have been named
upon the river, and by an agency established in Ilorin.

In 1897, practically, though not actually, the last
year of the Company's administration, a campaign against
the Mohammedan state of Nupe, which at that time held
both banks of the Niger above Lokoja, was forced upon
the Company by the persistent slave-raiding of the
Mohammedans in trade areas farther south.

The campaign gave occasion for the most careful
organisation of the military forces of the Company. It
was recognised as involving perhaps the existence of
British authority in the country. An additional number
of officers from the regular army were lent specially to
the Company by the War Office, and the campaign was
conducted at very considerable expense upon the lines
of European war. The military operations were directed
against Bida, the capital of Nupe, situated on the
northern side of the river, and were completely successful
in their immediate results. The town was captured,
the emir was deposed, a portion of his territory which
lay upon the southern bank of the river was declared
independent of the suzerainty of Nupe, and a new emir
was placed upon the throne.

But in accentuating, by the precautions which it
rendered necessary, the difference between Mohammedan
civilisation to the north of the confluence and pagan
barbarism to the south, this war gave, as has been
already said, a very serious indication of the enlargement
of the proportions which the problem of British occupation
was likely to assume when any attempt should be made
to establish white authority in the Northern Territories.
The Company did not feel itself to be in a position
to make a permanent occupation of Bida. As soon as


its troops were withdrawn the deposed emir raUied his
defeated followers, assumed again the supreme authority
of which he had been deprived, and maintained his
province in a state of revolt against British authority
north of the river. It became clear that conquest without
occupation, or the establishment of some form of British
authority in the conquered provinces, would result only
in the creation of a line of impenetrably hostile border
states, with which neither trade nor any peaceful relations
could be maintained.

Troubles on the western border, resulting in the
agreement of 1898, and the consequent surrender of the
charter, gave the Company no opportunity of dealing with
the situation which was thus created. The authority
which had been successfully asserted over the pagan
tribes of the lower river, and which had not shrunk from
the first shock of conflict with the forces of Mohammedanism,
was withdrawn at this critical and interesting moment.

Thus it came about that when British administration
was officially established in the interior, it found itself
limited in fact to territory of which the northern line was
fixed by the Company's stations upon the river, and to
the western province of Borgu, which, subsequently to
the formation of the West African Frontier Force, had
been organised as a military province outside the territories
of the company.

The duty which lay before the first British High
Commissioner was to organise the territorities of Northern
Nigeria for administration. The whole of these terri-
tories had placed themselves nominally under the pro-
tection of Great Britain. They extended roughly, as
will be remembered, from 7° to 14° north latitude, and,
including Borgu, from 3° to 14° east longitude. They
covered an area of 350,000 square miles, or about one-
third of the size of British India, and they lay almost
wholly in the area occupied by those finer races of the
Soudan whose touch with civilisation had from time
immemorial been from the north. Never before in the


history of this part of the Soudan had any civilising
influence come from the south.

Two new and interesting chapters of history were
therefore initiated on the same day. For the first time
in the history of the Mohammedan states a superior and
civilising influence was established in an administrative
capacity upon their southern borders, and by its mere
presence began the process of drawing as a magnet
towards the south all the thoughts, the activities, the
fears and hopes, which the tradition of intelligence had
directed, through their entire previous existence, towards
the north.

On the other hand, for the first time in British history
colonial government was established in the interior of
West Africa. In determining to extend our influence to
the relatively healthy uplands bordering upon the desert,
to enter into friendly relations with the fine races which
inhabit them, and to open new fields to commercial enter-
prise in regions famous through all antiquity for their
wealth, a wholly new departure was made from the
traditions which had limited us for three hundred years
to a coast occupation of the malarial regions fringing the
Gulf of Guinea, and had confined our relations to the
type of negro who inhabits its shores. The history of
British West Africa entered upon a new phase, and if,
as we may venture to hope, British influence upon the
races of the interior may be of such a nature as to
revive in them the old traditions associated with the
civilisation of Europe in their best days, the influence
of the Mohammedan races upon British West African
policy may be not less important. They offer us a field
for the foundation of a West African Empire, of which
neither they nor we need be ashamed.


Before attempting to give any account of the establish-
ment of British administration in Northern Nigeria, there
is still a chapter of native history to be told.

We left the Mohammedan states of the Soudan in
the seventeenth century, when after the conquest of the
Moors they became isolated in the heart of Africa, and
fell into the decadence in which we know them. The
Tarikh-es-Soudan, of which the chronicle continued to the
middle of the seventeenth century, informs us that after
the Moors of the Soudan had cut themselves off from
Morocco, the government of the Pashas rapidly de-
generated. In 1623 it is stated that "excesses of every
kind are now committed unchecked by the soldiery, and
that the country is profoundly convulsed and oppressed."
About the middle of the eighteenth century the Tuaregs,
pressing down from the desert upon the Moors, deprived
them of the principal towns of Songhay, and established
a kingdom of their own upon the Niger. What the
Moors had become at the end of the eighteenth century,
some thirty years after they had been driven from Gago
and Timbuctoo, may be gathered from Mungo Park, who
had experience of them in his journey from the coast to
the Niger in 1795.

The Moors, he says, are divided into many tribes,
each more entirely barbarous and cruel than the other.
Each tribe is governed by a separate king, who owns no
allegiance to a common sovereign. They pay but little
attention to agriculture, purchasing their corn, cotton
cloth, and other necessaries from the negroes in exchange


for salt, which they dig from the pits in the great desert.
Describing them as a whole, "They are," he says, "at
once the vainest, the proudest, and perhaps the most
bigoted, ferocious, and intolerant of all the nations of the
earth." They had a very primitive system of justice
and taxation, but they had "neither dignity nor order."
They lived in a condition of constantly plundering the
negroes around them, and, like the nomad Berbers, they
frequently roamed from place to place.

But the Moors did not fall from their high position
in the Soudan without the interposition of another
power. This time the dominating people, although not
black, were, like the conquering races of Melle and of
Songhay, of local origin. As the Moors declined, the

Fulani rose.

This remarkable people, of whom mention is made in
the earliest records which have been preserved of the
history of the Soudan, have given rise to much learned
controversy in the endeavours to determine to what
branch of the human race they properly belong.

In the sixteenth century of our era, they may fairly
be spoken of as being of local origin in the Soudan.
At that time they knew of no other home, and there
was record of their presence in the country for upwards
of looo years. But they were of a race wholly different
from that of the other races of the Soudan. Though
profoundly modified by intermarriage, they counted them-
selves as a white people, and even when the mixed
blood gave to their skin the prevailing colour of black
or red, their features, their hair, their carriage, and their
distinctive characteristics, proclaimed them of other than
negro race.

The variations in their appearance are at the present
day so marked — ranging from the jet black of the Joloffs
of the western coast through "tawny," "white," and
even " Syrian red " skins, to the blue-eyed individuals
mentioned by Baikie as having been met by him upon
the Benue — as to present arguments in support of the


most opposite theories regarding the birthplace of their

We have already seen in the Tarikh-es-Soudan a
description of the black Joloffs, which counted this people
among the "best of men," and very superior to "all
other Fulani." Marmol, in describing a chief of this
race M^ho visited Portugal at the end of the fifteenth
century, tells us, it will be remembered, that he had a
fine figure and was generally well made, also that he
had a long and well-trimmed beard, and "did not
appear to be a negro, but a prince to whom all honour
and respect were due." In Mungo Park's day the
distinction of the Tarikh between the Joloffs and "the
other Fulani" had grown into a permanent distinction
of race, and Mungo Park speaks of them as two
peoples. He says, however, of the Joloffs, whom he
praises as an active, powerful, and warlike race, that
"their noses are not so much depressed nor the lips so
protuberant as among the generality of Africans, although
their skin is of the deepest black." In the case of this
people, intermarriage upon the coast with purely negroid
types had no doubt brought them to a near resemblance
with negro peoples, but the Foulah strain was still of
effect enough to make of them a people who were highly
thought of by the white traders of the coast.

The Foulahs proper, whom Mungo Park distinguishes
from the Joloffs, are, he says, "chiefly of a tawny com-
plexion, with soft, silky hair and pleasing features." These
Foulahs, like others scattered through the entire length
of the fertile belt, were " much attached to a pastoral
life," and had, he tells us, by the end of the eighteenth
century " introduced themselves into all the kingdoms
on the windward coast as herdsmen and husbandmen,
paying a tribute to the sovereign of the country for the
lands which they held." The same pastoral Fulani
migrated, as we have seen, in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries to the Haussa States and Bornu, and paid
tribute to the reienine kinofs of Kano and other towns.


They are known to this day in Northern Nigeria under
the name of Cow Fulani. Mungo Park also says of the
Foulahs, "They are naturally mild and gentle. . . . They
evidently consider all the negro nations as their inferiors,
and when talking of different nations always rank them-
selves among white peoples. . . . They are Mussulmans,
and the authority and laws of the prophet are everywhere
looked upon as sacred and decisive." He tells us that,
in his day, they possessed in the Soudan many kingdoms
at great distances from each other, and he notices the
diversity of their appearance. "Their complexion, how-
ever, is not quite the same in the different districts. In
kingdoms which are situated in the vicinity of the Moorish
territories (meaning to the north), they are of a more
yellow complexion than in the southern states." He
mentions the fact that they have a separate language,
and gives specimens of its vocabulary. Francis Moore,
speaking of the Fulani of the Gambia in 1734, gives them
much the same character as that given them by Mungo
Park. "They have chiefs of their own," he says, "who
rule with so much moderation, that every act of govern-
ment seems rather an act of the people than of one man."
He also speaks of their charitable and humane qualities.
Dr. Blyden, writing of them in the present day, tells us
that every man and woman among them can at least
read Arabic.

Denham, writing a little later than Mungo Park, gives
us a description of another class of Foulah or Fulani
as he met them on the shores of Lake Chad. " They
are," he says, " a very handsome race of people, of a
deep copper colour, who seldom mix their blood with
that of the negroes, have a peculiar language of their
own, and are Moslem." These were the conquerors of
Bornu, aristocrats and military rulers. He says of them
in another place that they resembled the inhabitants of
Tetuan in Morocco. He also finds in them a resemblance
to the gypsies in England. But a Foulah whom he met
in one of the border towns of Bornu told him, he says,


that he had been to Mecca, and that there he had met
Wahabis, who " were the same people and spoke the
same language as the Fulani."

Barth speaks of the Fulani as a race distinguished
by its absorbent powers, and now comprising many other
races, of which there are four main divisions. He gives
the names as the "Jel," the "Baa," the "So," and the
" Beri," but these again are subdivided. Both Barth
and Denham speak of the great capacity of the aristocratic
Fulani for ruling other races. Denham says of them
on the western border of Bornu, " They are here much
esteemed by the people whom they rule for their im-
partial administration of justice." In all this, we are
reminded of Bacon's axiom, that " States that are liberal
of naturalisation towards strangers are fit for empire."
Throughout the entire history of the Soudan, members
of the Fulani race are to be found in positions of
importance and responsibility. There were in every
successive civilisation Fulani judges, Fulani imaums of
the mosques, Fulani men of letters, Fulani advisers to
the kings, and frequent mention is made of the Fulani
wives of persons in high position. This influence was
not confined exclusively to the Soudan. It spread even
to Morocco. More than one Moorish sovereign had a
Fulani counsellor, and it is mentioned that Muley Hamed,
the reigning sovereign of Morocco, at the moment of
the Moorish conquest had a favourite Fulani wife, Leila
Aouada by name.

It is not surprising that a race of such varying
activities, lending itself to such different developments,
should give rise to widely-varying scientific theories of
its origin.

The one point upon which all scientific investigation
is agreed is that the language of the Fulani is not
African, and that this people, which has maintained in
the Soudan an individuality no less marked and persistent
than that maintained by the Jews in Europe, was originally
wholly foreign to the environment in which we find it.


Its first home in Africa would seem to have been the
south-western corner between the Senegal and the
Atlantic, in which, according to Herodotus and Strabo,
the Phoenicians made their early settlements. As this
was the remotest extremity of the western world known
to the ancients, it follows as a matter of course that the
original home of the Fulani is supposed to have been
further east. It is indeed a disputed point whether their
first movements in Africa were from west to east, or
gradually in the first instance from east to west, and
only later, within our own times, from west to east. One
theory of their origin is that they are of the same
Malayan or Polynesian stock as that which is believed to
have colonised Madagascar. Another is that they came
originally from Egypt, and this involves the assumption
that their movement in Africa was a gradual advance from
east to west. This theory would seem to be disproved
by the fact that their language has no affinity to the
languages of the Nile. It has also been sought to asso-
ciate them with the Jews, but it has been shown that their
language is still further removed from languages of
Semitic origin than it is from the idiom of the Soudan. I
do not know whether this objection would apply to the
language of the Phoenicians, nor have I anywhere seen
the theory of Phoenician descent scientifically examined.
The theory which seems to be most generally received
and most logically supported is that the fount of origin
of the Fulani people must be sought in India. This is the
opinion of M. de Lauture, who relates the legend of their
origin, as he learned it in Darfur, to be that they sprang
from the marriage of a Hindu, who entered the Soudan
by way of Egypt, with the female of a chameleon. He
takes the legend to mean that the Fulani were the out-
come of a union of Hindu stock with different tribes of the
Soudan, in this way accounting for the great diversity of
their characteristics.

Dr. Thaly supports the Indian theory. He connects
the F^ulani with the gypsies of Europe, and traces both


gypsies and Fulani to an Indian origin. There are
legends quoted by Barth and by M. Berenger Feraud
to the effect that the Fulani entered the Soudan originally
by way of Morocco, and these, though offered in opposition
to the Indian theory, might, with very little straining, be
made to support it, for Strabo, after describing a populous
and flourishing African nation dwelling to the far west
of Africa in the country opposite to Spain, adds the
remark, "Some say that they are Indians who accom-
panied Hercules hither." The legend of Strabo, added
to those quoted by modern writers, might therefore account
for an Indian origin, even in Fulani who had entered the
Soudan by way of Southern Morocco. It has also been
sought to connect the Fulani with the Berbers, but this
theory is rejected by philologists. It will, however, be
remembered that among the nomad tribes of the desert,
mentioned in an earlier chapter, allusion was made to one
tribe not to be confused with those of Berber race. These
were the Zingari or gypsies, who were believed to be of
Indian descent. In assuming a Berber origin for the
Fulani, it is again not improbable that the opponents of
the Indian theory may unconsciously be supporting it by
a confusion between one nomadic race of the desert and

That the Fulani may have owed their origin to the
downfall of the dynasty of the Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings,
who were driven from Egypt about the year 1630 B.C.,
is finally a theory which would seem to reconcile many
conflicting arguments. M. Delafosse, whose studies in
West African languages give special weight to his opinions,
and who is one of the latest writers upon the subject, is
inclined to espouse this view. He thus countenances the
opinion of those who contend that the Fulani entered
the Soudan by way of Egypt, but at the same time he
emphatically rejects the theory of Egyptian origin, and
carries the question of origin one step further back to
that of the origin and race of the Hyksos themselves.
This he would find in India, "probably on the southern


slopes of the Himalayan Mountains." He puts forward
as a suggestion that the same migrations of Hindu origin
may have given us the Hyksos and the gypsies and the
Fulani. He does not regard the question as having been
yet decisively examined, and he appeals to anthropologists
and philologists to assist in its scientific elucidation by
comparison between the racial characteristics and the
dialects of the Fulani, the gypsies, and certain existing
pastoral tribes in India. As a result of some slight study
of his own of gypsy language he adds, " I think I may
say that of all African, Asiatic, Oceanian, and European
tongues which I have compared with the language of the
Fulani, the language of the gypsies is that which appears
to me to possess the greatest point of resemblance."

In connection with the theory of the descent of the
Fulani from the Hyksos, I would quote the great similarity
observed by my husband to exist between the Wahuma of
Eastern Africa and the Fulani of the Western Soudan.
The Wahuma, like the Fulani, were pastoral nomads
who, in the endeavour to secure fresh grazing ground,
became invaders and conquerors. In Uganda, Unyoro,
Karagwe, and other eastern states the Wahuma founded
the royal dynasties, while their tribesmen, corresponding
in position to the Cow Fulani, tended the cattle of the
negroids. The Wahuma, who have a great physical
likeness to the Fulani, are often strikingly handsome and
extremely intelligent. That the Wahuma should have
descended upon East Africa from the valley of the Nile
is not surprising. Of both races, Fulani and Wahuma
alike, it can at least be said that they so far support the
theory of a common origin in the Hyksos, as to have
maintained through all their history, in the diverse
countries in which they are to be found, the ancient
position of Shepherd Kings.



Assuming the Fulani and the gypsy to be of similar
Indian race and to have entered the Soudan by way of
Egypt, perhaps nearly two thousand years before Christ,
we have still the fact that within historic times the move-
ment of the Fulani in the Western Soudan has been from
west to east, not from east to west.

The earliest definite mention which we get of them
is the rumour mentioned by the author of the Tarikh-es-
Soudan, that the first white king of Ghana, who reigned
presumably in the third century of the Christian era,
was reputed to have had a Fulani name — Quaia Magha,
which in Fulani means Ouaia the Great. Whether
Phoenician or Fulani, the first white rulers of Ghana
continued to reign for twenty-two generations, and were
then superseded by a black dynasty.

In the ninth century we hear of Fulani occupying the
town of Masina, situated on the Niger between Jenne
and Timbuctoo, and the following story is told of the
origin of their kings.

Maghan, a fugitive prince from his own country of
Koma, in the territory of Quaiaka, came driving a few
oxen before him to a hill called Masina, in the territory
of Baghena. He and his followers made friends with
the Senajah (Berbers), who occupied the territory, and
after a time, Maghan having been joined by more followers,
the King of Baghena named him king of those who had
followed him. All the Fulani then joined themselves
to Maghan, some being of his own tribe and some of

Sankora. From this time (to which no date is affixed).



Masina drew its kings from four tribes, of which one
inhabited Quaiaka and one Borgu. We are also told
that, by an agreement between themselves, the people
of Masina had for their kings alternately a Berber and
a Fulani. Presumably, therefore, the tribes of Quaiaka
and Borgu were Fulani, and the other two of the four
were Berbers. This arrangement, mentioned at so early

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 30 of 41)